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The Zixi Qinliangshan Research Lab

Hosted by


This project is service design concept addressing the issue of human migration from rural to urban areas. The service is a form of a public private partnership (PPP) between educational institutes and research companies. The service aims to create an on-site research lab in the village with help of locals, and the researchers based in the lab will improve the educational infrastructure in the village so that young adults are not compelled to migrate to urban areas in search of better education for their children. 




2 Week (Intensive) 


UX Design & Service Design


Team Project

Organized & Sponsored by


Challenge :

This project was a part of an international design challenge called 'The Lucitopia Rural Design Challenge' that took place in Qingliangshan national forest park, Zixi County, in Jiangxi Province of China in May 2018.


The challenge was to create solutions to reduce human migration from rural to urban areas. As most of the Chinese villages and towns were being abandoned by young adults in search for a better lifestyle in urban areas. 


Travel to on-site location

The organizers had arranged for all the teams to travel to the location of the competition from all around the world.


Context study

The first stage of the project was to understand the area and the situation of the village. It helped us set the context for the project


User research

We shortlisted our user targets and started researching them in detail to set guidelines to design solutions

Project Plan :


Synthesizing research 

We decided to use research from the context study and user research to synthesize insights that will help set the theme for the project


Final solution

Based on final insights we designed our final solution which was in form of a service design based on PPP model of development



Every team had to present their concepts to the organizers and the involved stakeholders. Based on the votes by the judges the winner and runner ups were chosen


Travel to on-site location

Our team had to travel by air from France to China to participate in the challenge. The challenge demanded the participants to stay on site in Lucitopia town and work in collaboration with locals to design a solution in a week's time on the given challenge

Qingliangshan, Zixi County, China.


Paris, France.



Context Study

The study was done in 3 steps. At first, we did a quick research on the landscape, moving on we mapped the location to understand interactions within the resources and finally, we spent a complete day in the village speaking with locals and understanding their way of life

Location Landscape


Qingliangshan national forest park, Zixi County

Qingliangshan national forest park is a protected forest zone which was based in Zixi County in the northeast region of Jiangxi province. The whole forest region is a mountaineous densely vegetated rough terrain, with immense biodiversity and home to some rare species which has been an important topic of research in China

Mapping the Location

We stayed in the Lucitopia town, which was an adopted old village undertaken by private entities. To begin with the project, our team decided to study the location in detail and understand our constraints. We made our own version of map that pointed out the essential interactions and touch points within the town


Exploring & Analyzing the location

After studying and mapping the region, we decided to explore further in our location to closely understand the concerns and challenges that were being faced by the town. Our idea was to intially observe everything from our point of views and then interact with the locals to confirm some of our insights. This exercise allowed us to experience the local life and helped us confirm some of our assumptions.


User Research


Village population

Village population majorly consisted of old people in the age of  60 yrs and above and small kids and toddler in the age of 0-4 yrs.


This distinct demography was because of the Chinese family tradition, wherein young couples leave their children with their grandparents to learn the culture, language and tradition of their region. While, the young couple migrate to urban areas in search for  better lifestyle. This also helps young couples to dedicate more attention towards their career without be bothered about their kid's well-being

User Persona comparision

We sketched user profile of a old man in the village and compared it with an old man in the urban areas. We chose the old man as it was the most evident user profile in the area, therefore we decided to start with him although he wasnt our chosen user. 


Although we expected to get some direction for our research, but it did not help us as much. We tried to understand differences in lifestyle and possible causes of what might have driven the urban old man from his native village and what could be the possible reasons for him to stay there.


Social Proximity Mapping

We created a social proximity map to understand the various levels of social interactions of the old man. Social proximity map helped us identify other stakeholders and the interactions/relationships they share. Additonally it also provided us with some clues to find specific opportunities in the village.


Daily experience map to identify areas of opportunities

In this step, we compared daily life scenario of a rural and urban old man. As we were still exploring in all directions to find some key clues to build a foundation of our project, we thought that daily life scenario with mood mapping would help us identity certain key details in the daily life which could be considered as a factor for driving the solution.

Revisiting and Investigating the issue

Our primary and speculative research with user interviews demanded us to go back on field to study daily life in detail. This time our aim was to observe the life from inside of the village, particularly from the homes and essential infrastructures. In our primary research we realised that facilities was one of the major reason for heavy migration. Hence, we decided to study those facilities which could be improved, and feasible to execute to help the town in retaining  its population


Synthesizing Research

Key Issues

From our research, these were key issues according to us which were affecting the town and causing migration from the town to cities.

Lack of facilities 

Lack of education

Abandoned infrastructure 

No market for the produce

Lack of employment

Disconnected mobility
of the region

Abandoned infrastructure 

No market 

Lack of employment



Disconnected mobility
of the region

Lack of facilities 

Lack of education

Impact Meter

We placed our key issues on the impact meter ranging from low impact to high impact, which helped us prioritise the most important and  crucial issues. As we had very less time on our hands we could not go in deep with every issue, hence we had to choose 1 to focus on.

Lack of education

Our Chosen Issue 
Lack of Education and Related I

Lack of Education was our most important issue and the context of our project, as we realised that mostly young couples left villages in search of Jobs and better education for their kids. We believed that education was the most important factor which was interlinked with all the other issues. If we improved the education infrastructure, it would help the town retain most of the population, provide employment to the village and help in improving quality of life.

'The Only Kid'
Village school had only one student 

We visited the town school because that was our main focus area and we decided to interact with students and teachers in the school to understand the situation better. But, to our surprise we were informed that the whole town school had just one student and 2 teachers. This information made our study more challenging because now we did not have direct insights from the influential users. At this point of time we also decided to change our main user(the old man) to this young kid of age 6 yrs whose name was Jiang Xiaojiang. At this point of our research we were kind of running short of time, so we decided to interact with Jiang's family and his teacher to understand the scenario.


Our User Target

Jiang Xiaojiang

We understood that the village and the school did not have enough educational machinary and financial muscle to continue any longer. Our focus was to retain and save the school from closing down.

Lucitopia Town School


Internal Stakeholders

Lucitopia town

Our opportunity area


After representing all our research in a schematic diagram, we found the exact opportunity point. We had to design a service which will connect the town and school with external stakeholders that will help establish an interaction to resolve the issue highlighted by us.


External Stakeholders

External Stakeholders

International Entities

(Companies & Universities)

Xiamen University

(Local University)

Sinuote Bio-tech

(Private research company)

user requirements-01.png

Visual Representation of Key Stake Holder's needs

We created a requirement map for our key stakeholders to find common tangents to work on. 

The Idea of this exercise was to have visual representation of our stakeholder's needs and find common links that will help us define our creativity axis

connection map-02.png

Engaged Guidance.      Profound partnerships.      Pragmatic Opportunities.      Self-Reliant Economy

Computing Needs into best possible combination
to determine the creativity Axis

We connected touch points to create interesting directions which are denoted through the keywords. These keywords helped us create our creativity axis that would help us in designing our solution.


In this project we had to present just one strong concept, hence we did not have enough time iterate more ideas, and therefore we had to be very traditional and direct with our approach.

Defining the creativity axis from the key words

Considering the 4 keywords we combined them to create our creativity axis which would be a final direct personal brief for us to design the solution.

Engaged Guidance. +  Profound Partnerships. +  Pragmatic Opportunities + Self-Reliant Economy = Creativity Statement

"To create profound partnerships between stakeholders through engaged guidance, which will open opportunities to make the Lucitopia town a self sufficient and self reliant economy"


Final Solution 

Zixi-Qinliangshang Research Lab


ZIXI RESEARCH LAB is public-private partnership between Xiamen university and their partner universities abroad, and Sinuote Biotech. 


The partnership aims to expand and improve local innovation and research while exploring the rich biodiversity in Qinliangshan region. Research lab is an initiative to include the town in overall development of the region, as well as provide an on-field research opportunity for motivated Environmental scientists, Biotech researchers, young PhD pursuants, students etc. to engage and work in realtime premises to advance their research work.

The Lab acts an a medium between local villagers and the researcher, wherein the locals recruted by the lab are paid ethical salaries in return for their support towards the researchers in form of food supplies, navigational guidance of the region, man power and residential support. The resident researchers are required to teach in the village schools as well as advice and actively engage in the development projects of the town. ZIXI Research Lab is an effort to create a self reliant, trustworthy circular engagement between all the stakeholders through an all-inclusive policy.

On-field research
Improve mobility to town
Advance experiment facilities
Specimen storage 
Provide Teachers for village school
Provide Employment to villagers

Service Design Model

Below is the schematic representation of the whole service and how ZIXI Research Lab creates web of interactions which snychronises itself in a pattern that revolves around the village school, Village and the rural community. The service plugs in the external elements into a relationship with the village that would collaborate towards development and economic upliftment of the region.

ecosystem mapping-03.png

Jiang Xiaojiang


Lucitopia town

Lucitopia town school

Xiamen university

(Local university)

Sinuote Bio-tech

(Private research company)

International Entities

(Companies & Universities)

Zixi Qinliangshang 

Research Lab

ZIXI research lab becomes the facilitating link between stakeholders that control and manages the interactions, as well as leads and overlooks the development projects, supports the community and strengthens the quality of life in Lucitopia town.


Presentation & Experience

This project was a very exciting and motivating experience as a whole, this was my first time that I travelled to an on-site location in a foreign country to experience the issues from first hand point of view.


The challenge exposed me to Chinese culture and their way of life and it acted as a multicultural platform that allowed us to compete by expressing our identities and thought processes from our places of origin. It was refreshing to watch various nationalities working on an issue which was not directly connected to their own countries, but it reflected true globalism and how having foreign outlook could help locals resolve issues in a different way.

I would consider this as an opportunity to also thank my team mates Jordan (American) and Jiajin (Chinese) who were my classmates from France, and the whole organising team from China and Netherlands that supported and guided us during the whole challenge.